Power Poses Shortcircuited

, Malcolm A. Kline, 2 Comments

Some theories are so stupid that you can tell at the outset that elites will embrace them: Amy Cuddy’s thesis of “power poses” is one of these.

Launched in an academic paper in 2010, the theory that stance=success picked up a celebrated following. “A bigger boost came when David Brooks, The New York Times columnist and author of books like The Social Animal, about the everyday uses of psychology, visited the Harvard Decision Science Laboratory, where Cuddy is a researcher,” Tom Bartlett wrote in The Chronicle Review on December 9, 2016. “He described in a column how the power-poses experiment showed that the testosterone levels of subjects who stood in ‘high-power positions’ for only two minutes increased significantly while their cortisol levels dropped.”

Cut to last fall. “Then in late September, one of Cuddy’s co-authors, Dana Carney, did something unusual: She posted a detailed mea culpa on her website, siding with the study’s critics,” Bartlett wrote. “‘I do not believe that ‘power pose’ effects are real,” wrote Carney, an associate professor of psychology at the University of California at Berkeley’s business school.”

“Her note went on to say, that while the research had been performed in good faith, the data were ‘flimsy’ and the design and analysis, in retrospect, unsound. She discouraged other researchers from wasting their time on power poses.”

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